Office 365 Groups vs Distribution Lists — What’s the Difference? Office 365 (now known only as Microsoft 365) is a suite of productive tools that has played a vital role in revolutionizing the definition of success for many organizations to date.
As per 2022 data, Microsoft Office 365 controls almost half of the office productivity market.
With exciting free subscriptions and robust paid plans, Office 365 has a variety of features to offer your business. Well, Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists are two of the many such feature rich aspects.
When it comes to a group of people within an organization, Distribution Lists and Office 365 Groups both appear to be virtually the same, thus leaving business owners wondering which one is the better choice. Though the main objective of these two is to facilitate communication between employees, they come with distinctive differences that affect their effectiveness.
In this blog post, we’ve compared both Office 365 Groups and Distribution Lists — covering their notable aspects and the key differences between them. The comparison(s) help you choose the best option for your business based on your specific needs.
Shall we start with Office 365 Groups vs Distribution Lists — What’s the Difference?
Office 365 Groups
First of all, the Office 365 Groups is a cross application service that focuses on collaboration between the users, within the organization as well as outside your company. A group is started and managed by any user.
In turn, it enables you to easily collaborate with your team members or edit documents (as per the pre defined policies of your project). These groups are created using other Office 365 tools such as Planner, Outlook on the web, SharePoint, Outlook Mobile, etc. To fulfill the contemporary work demands, these groups work as dynamic self service tools that are completely secure.
Features Of Office 365 Groups
- Anyone can join public groups without requiring permission.
- Group creation can be controlled.
- Easy document sharing outside the organization by using the Guest Access feature.
- Deleted groups can be restored, and reappear in the navigation panel.
- Easy organization with labelling.
Types of Office 365 Groups
- Distribution Groups — Used for group emails (for communication and collaboration).
- Dynamic Distribution Groups — Helps in sending bulk emails within the MS Exchange Organization.
- Security Groups — Grants permission for access to Office 365 tools like SharePoint.
- Email Enabled Security Group — Used for granting permission for accessibility of Office 365
resources when more than 1 person is trying to access the same inbox.
- Microsoft 365 Group — Assists in granting permissions, shared inboxes, and collaboration.
- Dynamic Group — Enables dynamic management of the memberships via membership queries.
- SharePoint Group — Helps in the management of access to the sites.
Pros Of Office 365 Groups
Easy Setup And Lable Management
Besides, Office 365 interface replicates the user interface of Microsoft Exchange Administration. The groups are easy to set up, and do not require any prior knowledge or a need to learn about any new software. It has the intuitive layout of Microsoft Office and thus works as a convenient self service option for creation and collaboration.
Additionally, based on the categorized email labels, you easily create a retention policy to help you manage the content (deletion, keeping, archiving, etc.)
Collaboration For Efficient Teamwork
Certainly, Office 365 Groups simplify coordination among the team members for a well connected workflow where each team member has access to the information. It improves collaboration through the following functions:
- OneNote Notebook
Therefore, Office 365 Groups act as a shared workspace and enhance your organization’s team efforts. You are able to join meetings, start conversations, take down notes, and share documents with the members of the organization irrespective of their accessibility to On-Prem Customer Engagement.
Improved Policies To Control Group Creation
Chiefly, Office 365 empowers each user to create as many as 250 groups. A large number of unnecessary groups can also end up adding a complexity factor to the workflow. To limit such group creations, the stringent Office 365 policies provide you with the capacity to control the creation of any new groups. This ability to limit group creations applies to Yammer, Planner, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Outlook.
Cons Of Office 365 Groups
Group Permissions Question Data Safety
Since all the tenant users get access to the Office 365 groups, it is worth noting that they rightfully alter a Group Site Collection or edit/update a document. This entitles them to special features such as audit logs. This way most of the controls are left at the disposal of the end users, and this puts data security at risk.
Consequently, Office 365 Groups are not visible to Outlook 2013 and hence are compatible only with Office 2016. Also, the integration of Office 365 is possible only with Outlook 2016.
Up next with Office 365 Groups vs Distribution Lists — What’s the Difference? is to introduce Distribution Lists.
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As noted, it is mainly useful when you have to send emails to a group of people or a team, without needing to individually add addresses. Unlike Office 365 Groups, in Distribution Lists, a person from outside the organization joins only after getting accessibility permission from the admin.
Features of Distribution Lists
- Allows you to add, list, or delete members from a distribution list.
- Helps you to send emails to multiple people at once.
- Enables simpler report distribution.
- The group name is expanded into members.
- You create dedicated email addresses.
Types Of Distribution Lists
Pros Of Distribution Lists
Easy Bulk Email Sending
Equally, you send bulk emails to a large group of contacts in your list simultaneously, without having to manually add ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ every time as in traditional email methods. Therefore, it acts as an easy solution to manage communication with multiple team members at the same time. The received emails are replicated and sent to the inboxes of multiple contacts, enabling the reception of the same email at the same time by all the team members.
Simple Data Deletion And Management
You can delete a certain distribution list using the creation tools itself. These can also be deleted in PowerShell. The empty distribution lists are found and deleted using specific commands. Additionally, you also keep track of emails conveniently.
Targeted Emails With Lists
Messages can be targeted to a specific group of contacts with segmentation features. Distribution lists are inexpensive, and created and managed without any hassles. Target-specific emails help in product promotions, building brand awareness, building relationships with present or past clients, etc.
Cons Of Distribution Lists
Lack Of Response Visibility
When a team member replies to a certain email sent to a distribution list, the other recipients cannot get acknowledged about the same. This affects efficient communication or discussion between the employees. Also, there are no transparent records of email conversations.
Evidently, distribution lists only allow limited or no control over replies or required actions. A member cannot assign requests to an individual team member. You cannot add internal notes or private notes to any support requests.
Office 365 Groups Vs Distribution Lists – A Quick Comparison
Office 365 Groups
They allow you to collaborate with your preferred contact(s) outside as well as within the organization. It uses apps like SharePoint, Planner, etc. for such purposes. As a result, It enhances the collaborative workflow with team collaboration.
Office 365 Groups
With its collaboration feature, Office 365 Groups allow you to share a collection of resources with your team. It uses apps such as Shared Calendar, Outlook Inbox, or a document library for document or file sharing purposes. Also, it offers shared inboxes and calendars.
Distribution Lists do not allow shareability since there is no visibility of individual responses to the received emails within the teams. It only allows bulk email sending but no direct transparent responses. It does not offer any shared inboxes, and the emails are only sent to the members.
Office 365 Groups
The Distribution Lists appear as objects of Exchange Online and together appear as groups in Azure AD. The memberships of the mail enabled objects are supported by the Distribution Lists, yet, these remain invisible in the AD report. It can be availed in the free subscription as well as in other AAD subscriptions.
Office 365 Groups
A deleted Microsoft 365 Group can be restored if you are the administrator (global or group). The deleted groups are retrieved within 30 days after deletion. You can find a deleted group by clicking on ‘Groups’, followed by ‘Deleted Groups’.
There is no possible way to retrieve a deleted group in the Distribution Lists. The only way is to create a new DG (Distribution Group) with all the email addresses again.
Office 365 Groups
Both administrators, as well as end users, manually create an Office 365 Group. These also be created automatically by using tools such as Yammer, Planner, SharePoint, etc. These groups can be created in the Office 365 Admin Center, Exchange Admin Center, or PowerShell.
End users create Distribution Lists in Outlook by selecting the ‘People’ tab in the Address Book settings. The new contacts are added to a list as and when required. The created Distribution Lists are located in the ‘Contacts’ folder in Microsoft Outlook.
Office 365 Groups
Thank you for reading Office 365 Groups vs Distribution Lists — What’s the Difference? We shall conclude this blog article.
Office 365 Groups vs Distribution Lists – What's the Difference? (Conclusion)
The extent of team collaboration directly impacts business productivity and growth rate.
Hence, Office 365 Groups is a powerful suite of collaboration tools — such as SharePoint, Planner, etc. — which shapes the organization workflow.
Distribution Lists is a robust group/bulk emailing facility. But its limitations — like lack of shareability, absence of transparent email response(s), and facility to restore deleted lists — put it exponentially behind Office 365 Groups, when compared.
With Office 365 Group, you stay informed about emails and discussions that affect your interests in multiple groups and send emails using several groups’ aliases. With Distribution Lists, you can’t do either.
Ultimately, the decision of picking Office 365 Groups or Distribution Lists comes down to how an administrator wants to manage the accounts and contacts.
But we recommend that you choose Office 365 Groups as your go to option because it is a more ROI oriented choice and can accomplish everything that Distribution Lists can and more (as it is a subset of Office 365 Groups), which isn’t true vice versa.
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